Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Are You Working For?

Have you ever put a lot of time and effort into something, only to see it fizzle or turn out to be worthless? I know firsthand how crushing and discouraging the disappointment can be. But I ask: what did that question make you think of? I would guess some kind of project, self-set goal, or other assignment--a task you hoped to accomplish and applied yourself to. I had something else in mind--something that we may not be conscious or proud of, but that we tirelessly invest ourselves in nonetheless. Buckle your crash helmet of conviction (which you hopefully have learned to keep ready on my blog)--I'm talking about sin.

It's a bit strange to think of sin as something we work towards. It can seem like something we sometimes do, that "just happens". But the longer I walk with God, the more I realize that I sin against Him not so much in what I do as in who I am. I shouldn't have to convince anyone that by nature, we are evil through and through. No, everyone else doesn't "have it all figured out"--deep down, we all share the same condition. The sinful nature, at a deep level, is the inevitable tendency to exchange God for His creation (Romans 1:25) as the satisfier of our desires and needs. Whatever we put on this pedestal of ultimate importance, we will naturally put a lot of effort into. This can be seen in an activist who seems to live for his or her chosen cause, a husband who really loves his wife and constantly thinks of ways to show it, or, tragically, an alcoholic or drug addict who looks for bliss in escape from reality. If you want to know what your "treasure" (Matthew 6:21) in life is, don't look at what you tell others--look at what dominates your thoughts and your time.

So it seems natural that if we have something we treasure in life above all else, we will be motivated to work hard for it to derive satisfaction from it. But I believe that no finite, created thing can ultimately satisfy. Only God can, and looking elsewhere is the essence of sin. If we spend ourselves working on the field of our idol, we will reap nothingness itself. Paul writes: "The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23a) I don't know any way to convince you of this other than by assuring you that if you haven't already experienced this nothingness in your life, you will.

But God is different. The verse continues, "...but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Eternal life--imperishable, incorruptible, permanently satisfying--wouldn't we like our treasure to give us that! We'd best stop chasing lesser things and work for God, right? Notice the third word: "but the gift of God is eternal life..." The life God offers isn't like the false life offered elsewhere. It's a gift. We don't have to earn it, only accept it. Maybe that should amaze you.

Until tomorrow (or maybe today), may you begin to break the deep-seated habit of trying to earn your way through life.

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